Ted Cruz may have lost the primary, but he won the war for viral fame

He turns from the podium. He hugs his wife. He turns to embrace his father, and in doing so, first accidentally punches said wife. Then he elbows her in the face. When U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas ended his bid for the presidency Tuesday, he didn’t just end a campaign. He ended a streak of Internet meme gold.

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, hugs his wife, Heidi, and his father, Rafael, following a primary night campaign event, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Indianapolis. Cruz ended his presidential campaign, eliminating the biggest impediment to Donald Trump's march to the Republican nomination. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, hugs his wife, Heidi, and his father, Rafael, following a primary night campaign event, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Indianapolis. Cruz ended his presidential campaign, eliminating the biggest impediment to Donald Trump’s march to the Republican nomination. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Breaking news alerts gradually gave way to GIFs of Heidi Cruz’s facial distress.That pugilistic moment competed for Twitter timeline space with serious news analysis of Cruz dropping out of the Republican race. It was fitting that the senator’s campaign would eke out one more viral moment as the Grim Reaper came.

Cruz’s stunted road to the White House was pockmarked with buzzed-about awkwardness and almost as many attempts to counteract it with pre-fab memes. Which were, for better or worse, just as awkward.

A brief highlight reel of Cruz’s most viral moments:

And that’s not even touching on some of the former candidate’s jarring interactions with others, the subject of much online conversation — daughter Caroline fleeing from his embrace on the trail; college roommate Craig Mazin continually roasting him on Twitter; former U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner referring to him as “Lucifer in the flesh”; and a spidery and flailing hand-clasp with Carly Fiorina, his Hail Mary pass of a running mate.

Donald Trump may have soundly defeated Cruz in the political world. But online, the race for dominance was far closer, at least until last week.

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